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Taiping Travel Guide | Things I Loved in Taiping, Perak, Malaysia

It was my first trip abroad, and going somewhere that was rarely traveled to appeal to the rebellious and the reckless in me. A week in Malaysia would mean a selfie with the Petronas Tower at the least, a walk around Penang, a glimpse of Melacca culture, and a trek around Cameron Highlands. In a world of independent travel itineraries provided by travel bloggers—which were helpful in many ways—I wanted to do something random, going somewhere that does not appeal to many travelers.


READ: One-Week Trip to Malaysia for Php8000.00 (USD170)!


After checking Malaysia’s map, I found several places that I have not heard of much: Ipoh, Sekinchan, and Taiping. Places that can be considered the spaces between the popular Point A and the equally touristy B. At Pudung Sentral, the old terminal, (the new terminal is now Terminal Bersepadu Selatan [TBS]), a 30-min train ride away the bus that would leave the earliest was that of Taiping. So off to Taiping I did. 

Contrary to itineraries provided by travel blogs, mine included, you can dance to your own tempo. The best trips I ever had are not, cannot be itineraried.

After three bus rides and after several locals’ help, I reached Taiping without knowing where to stay for the coming two nights. It was almost dark, but one of the first lessons I learned in Malaysia: the sun sets an hour later than in the Philippines! So it was fine.

My day may sound hard in words, but it was not really. Had it rained, it would have been a scene from a drama series: me dragging my wheeled backpack with a crying face that says it all: why am I doing this to myself.

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Luck was on my side. A young local man dropped me off to the hotel nearest to Taiping Lake Garden, without knowing that it would cost me P2500.00 and without knowing that I was on a budget. So I left the hotel, and I met Sir Mani who was jogging around the lake. It was him who drove me to two hotels. The first one was way beyond my budget (80RM, Php930.00). I reluctantly handed my credit card, but the hotel’s credit card machine would not read it. And I did not have enough cash with me. I had a little misadventure with my ATM card in Kuala Lumpur. The first two tries in an HSBC ATM at KLIA2 did not work, and I was assuming my bank forgot to activate my debit card. With Metrobank, the account holder has to inform the bank you are traveling abroad.

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So I was looking for that particular budget hotel, the cheapest I could find online, but I had no Internet for the time-being. Aside from driving me around, Sir Mani checked the hotels in Taiping online till we found Sojourn Bed and Café, which turned out to be more than a budget hotel, it is a travel-themed backpackers’ place bordering to a boutique hotel.

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With all the hurdles of traveling to an unknown place, the bigger question now is, “why?” Well, one is, I am simply arrogant and hardheaded. I resist following travel itineraries to heart, which is rather ironic for someone who churns out pseudo-travel guides for work.  Because I follow my own senses or the lack thereof—I have a terrible case of directional disorder. Because, why not?

Contrary to itineraries provided by travel blogs, mine included, you can dance to your own tempo. The best trips I ever had are not, cannot be itineraried.

Just make sure you won’t miss an international flight. 


Taiping Travel Guide | Taiping Lake Garden

Or it must be the trees. Or the people, as I mentioned on my column. These days, hitting Google’s “Images” button helped me a lot in decided where to go. Letting the place speaks for itself, as they say. I know, photos can be deceiving, but beautiful, naturally beautiful places are hard to fake, especially if it involves old trees.

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The branches of the rain trees, or acacia trees as we commonly called them in the Philippines, are so sleek, elegant, and yielding. They reached and touched the lake on the other side of the road. The moment was so Li Po or Basho. And it is rather rare to find trees that do not yield to the human’s whims. Here in Taiping Lake Garden, the vertical clearances are not uniform and dependent on the branches’ height. So it was rather magical to see vehicles slowing down and following the will of the branches.

The lake itself is not altogether natural. In the early 19th century, Taiping was known for its mining industry. When the industry closed down, it left a heavily scarred ground and artificial lakes.

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I rented a bicycle and cycled my way around the garden. The place was as serene as it was photographable. There was enough space for everyone. The garden is so huge that you do not feel intrusive to anyone’s affair. There are many lakes and ponds, and surrounding them are different types of faunas and floras: trees, dwarf bamboos, and huge lotus to name three. And for someone who loves the sight of greens, the whole garden is a real marvel for a gardener.

In the morning and afternoon where the light is not painful to the skin anymore, locals jog, exercise, bike, angle, walk, or find a good seat, and relax.

Scars can be beautiful. 

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At Night | Night Food Market

Every night, just across from Sojourn Bed and Café is a food market. There was a big screen set up for diners to watch TV while eating. Despite the inability to understand anything, I sat there, waited for my food like everybody else, and watched.

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It was my third day in Malaysia, and the food was enjoyable and varied: Malay, Chinese, and Indian.

I had tried some noodles, but the rice eater is rather stubborn. I enjoyed my rice meals so much more.

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Food outside the tourist trail is a lot cheaper. Back in Kuala Lumpur, a meal in Chinatown cost me 13.00RM ($3, Php150), but places that locals frequent such as  Lai Foong Restaurant only cost me RM5.50 ($1.5, Php65.00) In Taiping , I spent 5.50 RM ($1.5, Php65.00) for a lovely clay-pot meal! 

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Another Interesting Place | Kuala Sepetang-Matang

Following the recommendation of the guesthouse owner, I hopped in the local bus (the driver and conductor are both old, much to my amusement) to Kuala Sepetang-Matang, a place—according to the brochure I got from the pile of different brochures in the guesthouse—of “ECO. HERITAGE. SEAFOOD.”

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Sometimes I find it more fulfilling to not follow  what I am advised to do, especially when I am in a foreign place.

I just walked around up to the bridge overlooking the bay where fishermen docked their boats. I would have wanted to talk with the locals, but the streets were mostly empty.

Based on the brochure, this area has:

  • The largest mangrove forest reserve in Peninsular Malaysia
  • A thriving fishing village protected from the mangrove forest
  • Fresh and scrumptious seafood
  • Mee Udang Banjir and Blood Cockles Curry Mee
  • Sunset Watch over the Strait of Malacca at Kuala Sangga
  • Dolphin and Egret Sighting, Eagle Feeding
  • Firefly sighting at Kampung Dew
  • Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory
  • Malaysia First Railway line linking Port Weld and Taiping
  • History of British intervention into Perak administration
  • Century-old mosques, temples, and churches

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Have I done any of those? Nope. Aside from being on a tight budget (Php8, 000.00 for a week-long trip around Malaysia), sometimes I find it more fulfilling to not follow  what I am advised to do, especially when I am in a foreign place.

I enjoyed my few hours here, walking and eating laksa in a small stall whose owner could not speak English at all yet you could feel that she was very friendly and nice. The elementary girls who had a quick stop for some drinks before heading home on their bicycles, helped the lady in translating the price of my drink and noodles.

When the next bus arrived, I boarded it.

I was caught between doing something more and not doing anything at all.


QUICK FACTS

Budget for 3D/2N stay: 205RM ($50.00, Php 2360.00)

It would have been cheaper if I stayed in a dorm bed, which would cost RM25.00 a night instead of having my own room for RM50.00 ($12.00, Php575.00), which comes with a shared bathroom. But I spent two nights in a dormitory in Kuala Lumpur, and the experience was far from being pleasant. Someone’s bag stank so badly that all of us had a hard time sleeping, so I wanted some quality time with myself in Taiping. And yes, it came with a price. In fairness with Sojourn Bed and Café, its dormitory has the feel and look of a capsule hotel.

WHERE TO STAY IN TAIPING?

Sojourns Bed and Café: a Creative Backpackers’ Place
Tune Hotel – Taiping: Budget yet Posh
Flemington Hotel: Near Taiping Lake Garden
Novotel Taiping
Louis Hotel
Axis Hotel

Taiping Travel Guide

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

Jona | Backpacking with a Book

Hi, I'm Jona! I write stories and poetry and take a lot of photos, which I'm too lazy to upload. If you want to receive some photos that I don't share here on the blog, please leave your email here. I'm crazy about cats too. Feel free to browse through BWAB, and I would love it if you say hi! For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com For more stories about BWAB, check here. Connect with us through

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7 Comments

  1. Jai says:

    Hey. Glad to read that you’ve came to my hometown, where not everyone mostly tourists know about this place!

  2. I haven’t heard about Taiping yet, and its always make me happy whenever I find out new places to explore. I as well always have trouble when I use my credit card exactly during the time when I travel. I like those old trees that I won’t mind having a stiff neck just to gaze to its natural beauty.

    LaiArirl

    • Hi there, Lai!

      It is a weird habit of mine to stare at maps and go to a place I have never been to. Yeah, those trees are the sole reason I found my way to Taiping. What credit card are you using? Some would ask for an activation before your trip abroad.

      Thanks for dropping by, Lai!

  3. Hi Jona! Taiping has to be one of my favorite “non-popular” cities in Malaysia. Glas you enjoyed the Lake Gardens as much as I do!

  4. Christian Miranda says:

    Hi, how did you to Taiping from Ipoh? Thanks

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